Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or just a mentor of young people, there are tremendous opportunities to learn from this experience that you may apply to your career in leadership.
In March of 2023, my wife and I traveled 4 hours to have dinner with my grandkids. We had not seen them since the previous summer and were excitedly anticipating seeing the growth they had undergone in the last 8 months.
Even though it had been less than a year, we immediately noticed a change in their demeanor, verbal communication, and sophistication in conceptualizing ideas.
In short, we walked away enthused about their futures—they seemed on the right track.
High school can be a very trying time for young adolescents (don’t you remember how you were at that age?) so we were relieved to find they are following their passions and getting their sea legs in becoming young adults.
After our dinner, on the way home, I began thinking about all the ways being a grandparent is not so different than being a manager or an executive. I drew many parallels to the work I do with my peer groups and my private advisory clients.
Being a Good Leader is Just Like Being a Good Grandparent
As a grandparent, spending time with my grandkids, listening to their ideas, and getting to know them without judgment was utmost in my mind. This resulted in a strong relationship and allowed them to open up more and be vulnerable regarding their challenges.
Don’t you think that type of relationship with your team or your employees would be valuable too?
Imagine a scenario where one of your direct reports has found themself in a pickle—perhaps they have made a mistake and need help resolving it. It would be beneficial to all involved if that person felt comfortable coming to you and being open about the need.
I remember very clearly describing to my grandkids the mistakes I made as a teenager with the interest of demonstrating that I, too, am human. I could see the interest in their eyes as our conversation centered around going to college, what they should major in, and what the working world would be like.
They were not distracted, seemingly leaning on every word spoken.
That’s the power of storytelling.
I have fond memories of the communications course I used to teach at Brandeis in the Graduate Professional Studies School.
One of the things I taught, which, as evidenced by my dinner with my grandkids, is that words turn into sentences, and sentences turn into stories. Your audience will probably not remember the exact sentences you spoke, yet when turned into a story, there is a higher possibility of remembering your point.
This too, is a lesson worth noting in terms of leadership and how you communicate with your team.
The next time I will see my grandkids will be in July 2023, when their brother marries. I can’t wait to see how they show up at a family function and whether any of our conversations seeded to become a reality.
As leaders, we are responsible for showing the way and demonstrating the behaviors we wish our mentees to become whether they are our grandchildren or our employees.
Now ask yourself, am I a leader both at home and professionally?